As of this past Monday, New Jersey has become the second state to ban conversion therapy. Although this is a progressive measure for Governor Chris Christie's administration, it isn't enough for the Garden State, where same-sex marriage has yet to be legalized. In order to live up to the state's full potential to support the LGBT community, conversion therapy isn't the only policy to be reformed. Marriage in New Jersey must be re-evaluated to include same-sex couples.
Tim Eustace, an openly gay Assemblyman from Bergen County that calls conversion therapy "an insidious form of child abuse," sponsored the bill. Thankfully, it passed with bipartisan support in both houses.
Conversion therapy covers a wide range of pseudo-scientific treatments to convert homosexuals into heterosexuals, including behavioral modification and reparative therapy. Previously, the American Psychiatric Association has officially announced the organization's opposition to such measures. Along with most psychologists in America, the APA recognizes conversion therapy as a detrimental malpractice and strongly stresses its negative effects. The association instead suggests "therapists to consider multiple options, which could include celibacy and switching churches, for helping clients live spiritually rewarding lives in instances where their sexual orientation and religious faith conflict." Often, patients that undergo "reparative" or "conversion" treatment are more likely to be diagnosed with depression and commit suicide. Plus, the process itself barely works to actually change an individual's sexuality anyway.
Last year, California passed a similar ban on conversion therapy. However, there's a difference between California's support for the LGBT community and New Jersey's. In 2008, the state legalized same-sex marriage through the passage of Proposition 8. Granted, the issuance of marriage license was halted until this June, but nonetheless, gay marriage ceremonies have resumed. New Jersey is still one of many states that have not yet legalized same-sex marriage.
Again, the fact that a conversion therapy bill, signed by Christie himself, passed successfully is progess in and of itself. It isn't a gigantic step, because it's been a no-brainer to the APA for years, but a step nonetheless. However, same-sex marriage has yet to be legalized in New Jersey, and this is a problem. To support the LGBT community, banning conversion therapy must be an early step, but it's hardly the finish line. Properly recognizing and legalizing same-sex marriage needs to happen, or else LGBT rights will fall short of New Jersey's potential.